Category Archives: USA

UNCTAD report shows an unequal digital global economy

The increased use of digital platforms in everyday lives across the world is leading to a divide between under-connected nations from hyper-digitalized societies

The Digital Economy Report released by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) shows that China and the USA have done the most to harvest the digital economy and now dominate the rest of the world and leading to an unequal state of e-commerce. The two countries host seven global “super-platform” companies – Microsoft, Apple, Amazon, Google, Facebook, Tencent and Alibaba that account for two-thirds of the total market value of the seventy largest digital platforms with Naspers as the only African company in the group.

Google and Facebook collected 65% of the $135 billion spent on internet advertising in 2017, while, in Australia, Google took 95% of the “search advertising” revenue while Facebook took 46% of the “display advertising” revenue.

Europe’s share of the digital economy is only 4% while Africa and Latin America combine for 1%.  In Africa, progress has also been uneven with four countries – Egypt, Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa accounting for 60% of digital entrepreneurship activity. They are followed by a second tier of Ghana, Morocco, Senegal, Tanzania, Tunisia and Uganda (with a combined 20%)

The Report showed that the evolving digital economy has a major impact on achieving sustainable development goals (SDG’s) and calls for governments in developing nations to focus efforts on things like:

  • Skills development & re-education e.g. consider that in the Western world, you can do a whole university degree online.
  • Revising policies on data privacy & sharing e.g. have restricted local data sharing pools and have tariffs on cross-border data.
  • Revising competition regulations e.g. curb the tendency where platform companies tend to capture/acquire young promising companies in the developing world.
  • Taxation e.g. developing country governments should seek to tax digital platform companies.
  • Employment e.g. by setting minimum wages & work conditions for gig-economy workers.
  • Break down silos: no longer think of government as being separate from academia, private sector, civil society and tech communities.
  • Also, while the US and Europe have divergent views on data protection, it cites a survey which found that Kenyans had the least concerns about data privacy (at 44%).

Speaking at an unveiling of the Report in Nairobi, Dr. Monica Kerretts-Makau said that the world is trending towards a captive society where you have to be on a platform to transact in an economy and that presents problems and opportunities in the African context.

The 2019 issue of the Report, that was previously focused on the “information economy”, can be downloaded here.

How can the US engage in Africa, and go around China?

.. Extracts from “Deconstructing the Dragon: China’s Commercial Expansion in Africa,” a recent report by Aubrey Hruby that postulates what the United States can do to reposition its influence in Africa whose governments have received extensive assistance from China, mainly in terms of infrastructure projects.

The looks at the nature of infrastructure deals that have come to be dominated by China state-owned enterprises through a combination of feasibility studies, negotiations financing through Chinese loans, and eventually mobilization to start construction. Quick-decision making is a factor and McKinsey found that over half of investment decisions for Chinese construction and real estate companies were made in under a month.

The US can counter to these mainly be through US government to African business initiatives, while contracts with China’s “government to government programs.

Recommendations include:

  • Niche infrastructure that fall within the US competitive advantage like renewable energy, oil exploration and urban/smarter city solutions. However on the last one, the report points out that China has made significant inroads in media, telecommunications and security services.
  • Push for anti-corruption agenda, as this will level the playing field for US companies. This can be through supporting African government efforts to investigate and prosecute corruption cases.
  • Generate a pipeline of projects, data, and trade links to assist US businesses to invest in Africa. This can be through sponsoring competitions and investor trips.
  • Support the creativity and education sectors. There is an opportunity in the entertainment spaces as recent deals involving Netflix, Mavin Records and the National Basketball Association have shown. Also a quarter of African children (66 million) could be studying in private schools by 2021.
  • US financial institutions can work towards providing working capital, which remains a great challenge for individuals and small businesses in Africa.

It also notes that more US intuitional investors have opened up to putting more funding to African venture. These include the New York State Common Retirement Fund, which has allocated $6 billion to investments in Africa and the Chicago Teachers Pension Fund that have invested in two African private equity funds.

EDIT: A story in the Africa Report shows how a new US Development Finance Corporation (DFC), which combines the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC) and the Credit Authority of the U.S. Agency for International Development’s (USAID) is part of the broader economic and trade battle led by the USA against China.  

The new organization has more latitude than its predecessors in that, it will be able to make equity investment in private firms (previously they were restricted to debt) and a restriction that OPIC could only support projects with “a significant link with the American private sector” has been removed.

CIA Economic Data on Kenya and its President in 1978

Excerpts from a declassified CIA document from August 1978. 

The Economic Intelligence Weekly Review issue, dated 24 August 1978, was published two days after Kenya’s first President Jomo Kenyatta, who had led the country since independence in December 1963, passed away.

The document is meant for US government officials and was done in a format that is useful to them. It has economic indicators, industrial material prices, and contains data from sources like the IMF, and the Economist (their index of 16 food prices). There are also charts on Inflation, unemployment, trade patterns (imports and exports), unemployment rates, interest rates etc. in different countries that are classified by segments such as the Big Seven (US, Japan, West Germany, France, UK, Italy and Canada), other OECD, OPEC (oil-producing nations) and also Communist countries, and other ‘World’ countries.

There are detailed write-ups in the CIA weekly review on:

  • The black market in Cuba: Hustling of consumer goods is vibrant, reflecting shortages of consumer goods. Most consumer goods are rationed except a few luxury items like rum and cigarettes. It also notes that aggregate personal incomes in Cuba are up 38% since 1973 and have reached the rank and file of Cuba, with no evidence of appreciable corruption among top-level officials.
  • The USSR has borrowed more than it needs to build a pipeline. It obtained $2.5 billion, which was $1 billion more than required, from the CEMA International Investment Bank (IIB). Five Eastern European countries helped build it, and in exchange, they will receive gas annually, while sales of natural gas to Western Europe are expected to yield $750 million to $1 billion. The IIB borrow funds in European markets and on-lends them to Eastern European countries at rates better than the countries could obtain on their own. Items paid for with the loan funds included equipment bought from West Germany, Italy and France.
  • Concern about Poland debt payment problems despite a shrinking deficit: For a third year, Poland had to borrow $4 billion and could face a financial crunch or debt rescheduling. Cutbacks of available industrial materials have been severe, affecting production, while debt service payments are now double what they were in 1976 – amounting to 60% of Poland’s exports to the West, compared to 37% in 1976. 
  • The USSR is engaging with Iraq and India.
  • On Kenya, it looked at the transition era and economic stakes of the Kenyatta family, whose inner circle controlled key economic posts and had extensive commercial and agricultural investments, and land tracts around the country. 

The CIA found that the substantial economic investments built over 15 years would deter them from unconstitutionally challenging Acting President Daniel arap Moi, even as they predicted that the Moi-Njonjo group’s (Njonjo was Kenya’s Attorney General and a key ally of Moi in the transition phase) efforts to increase the economic pie could cause disenchantment with the Kenyatta clan.

It was expected that economic pressures would cause the government to push for redistribution of the country’s wealth as it also noted that the family is big in two activities – charcoal and ivory whose exports were banned. At the time, Kenya was considering applying to the IMF for assistance with its balance of payments in the coming years as oil prices had risen, key foreign exchange earners like coffee and tea were slumping, and there was a need to modernize the military while Kenya had also lost its top destination market – Tanzania with the collapse of the East African Community.

It is an astonishing amount of economic data, from fourty years ago – so what does the CIA collect today on different countries and economies?

See also this story from the Standard newspaper. 

Jumia IPO – Prospectus Peek

Edit April 12: Jumia lists on the NYSE

EDIT March 29 2019:  Mastercard Europe SA has agreed to purchase 128;50.0 million of our ordinary shares in a concurrent private placement at a price per share equal to the euro equivalent of the IPO offering price per ordinary share. Based on an assumed IPO offering price of $14.50 per ADS, which is the midpoint of the price range set and an assumed exchange rate of $1.1325 per 128;1.00, this would be 7,810,364 ordinary shares (corresponding to 3,905,182 ADSs). We will receive the net proceeds from this Concurrent Private Placement.

  • Mastercard Europe SA has agreed to purchase €50 million of our ordinary shares in a concurrent private placement at a price per share equal to the euro equivalent of the initial public offering price per ordinary share.
  • Certain of our existing shareholders have the right to subscribe for additional ordinary shares at nominal value depending upon the initial public offering price and the number of shares placed in this offering. Assuming a placement of all offered ADSs at the midpoint of the price range, these existing shareholders may subscribe for 18,157,245 ordinary shares against payment of €18.2 million.
  • The chairperson of our supervisory board, Jonathan Klein, has indicated an interest in purchasing an aggregate of up to $1.0 million in ADSs in this offering at the IPO price.

Posted March 15 Reading the F-1 filing for Africa Internet Holding GmbH, the Africa e-commerce company that will now be known as Jumia Technologies AG after it applied to list its shares on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) under the symbol “JMIA”.

Not much about the management at Jumia has been shared since Rocket Internet was dissected in Bloomberg story on their formula for Africa.  “Rocket sends three people to a different country to start a business: a CEO, a CFO, and a COO. The CEO builds the team, does the marketing, and drives sales. The CFO manages the revenue growth and cash burn. The COO makes sure we have a big enough warehouse and that the packages get delivered… and .. (the brothers) didn’t feel bad about copying. They had this feeling like they have to make Germany great again, so they only care about building big companies.

Why Africa?: The company (Jumia) is Africa Internet Holdings, registered in Germany. Jumia sees Africa as a market with 1.2 billion people (Jumia is in countries with 55% of this population), GDP of $2 trillion and 453 million internet users (Jumia is in countries with 77% of these internet users) and (they) believe that this younger generation, born into an “online” world, is increasingly seeking access to a wider choice of food, consumer goods and entertainment options as it becomes increasingly connected to, and aware of, global consumer trends.

They now have 4 million active customers, 81,000 active sellers, handled 13 million packages in 2018 and had 54% of transactions done on Jumia Pay which they introduced in Nigeria in 2016 and Egypt in 2018.

Ownership: The company was incorporated in June 2012. Shareholders in December 2018 were Mobile Telephone Networks Holdings – MTN (31.28%), Rocket Internet (21.74%), Millicom (10.15%), AEH New Africa eCommerce I (8.86%), 6.06% each for Atlas Countries Support and AXA Africa Holding, Chelsea Wharf Holdings (5.51%), CDC Group (4.04%), Rocket Investment Funds (3.48%) and Goldman Sachs (2.83%). A new shareholder, Pernod Ricard, came on board investing €75 million cash in January for 7,105 shares which became 5.1 million shares in a capital increase in February 2019 and they are entitled to more shares if an IPO happens within 18 months of their investment.

Governance: Jumia has 2 Co-CEO’s – Jeremy Hodara and Sacha Poignonnec who are both co-founders of the Company. There is also Antoine Maillet-Mezeray, the CFO – and the three, who all reside in Germany, comprise the management board of the company.

As part of the IPO, a supervisory board has been formed and it includes Gilles Bogaert (CEO Pernod Ricard SA), and Andre Iguodala, an NBA player with the Golden State Warriors. Other are Blaise Judja-Sato Jonathan D. Klein, Angela Kaya Mwanza (UBS Private Wealth), Alioune Ndiaye  (CEO Orange Middle East and Africa), Matthew Odgers (MTN Group) and John Rittenhouse.

Employees: The Company has a total of 5,128 staff including 1,213 in Nigeria, 572 in Egypt, 686 in East Africa and 183 in South Africa. Also, an ESOP (stock option plan) was set up in 2019 that will award options to key management of Jumia. The three members of the management board had total compensation of €1.04 million in 2018, and the two co-CEO’s each have 2.2 million shares as underlying options that were granted in 2016.

Assets: The Company has no real estate. It is headquartered in Berlin where they lease office space along with other spaces in Dubai and Portugal. They also have leased warehouses in Lagos, Cairo, Nairobi, Casablanca, Abidjan, and Cape Town.

Significant subsidiaries are CART (Nigeria), ECART Ivory Coast, ECART Kenya, ECART Morocco and Jumia Egypt.

Financials: For 2018 they had revenue of €130 million. Of the revenue, €66 million from West Africa, €378 million from North Africa, €15 million from South Africa and €10.8 million from East Africa (Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda – up from €4.6 million in 2017. In February 2016, they had exited Tanzania and sold their four Tanzania subsidiaries to co-CEO Hodara who wanted to run them himself.

In 2018, the goods they sold cost €84 million and Jumia also spent €94 million on administrative expenses (including €48 million on staff), €50 million logistics, €47 million on selling and advertising, and €22 million on IT expenses (including 12 million staff)

As a result, in the year 2018, they lost €169 million, compared to a loss in 2017 of €153 million. As at December 2018, the company had cash of €100 million and accumulated losses of €862 million.

Taxation: There are potential tax liabilities that have not been assessed over and above the €30 million in pending and resolved matters.  Their effective tax rate was 0.5% in 2018 and 7.4% in 2017.

The company has accumulated tax losses of €358 million including €145 million in Nigeria, €61 million in Egypt, €39 million in Kenya (~Kshs 4.5 billion), €28 million in South Africa and €25 million in Morocco.

Jumia Filing Matters: 

  • Filing costs about not confirmed but there will be a $12,120 SEC registration fee and an estimated $15,500 FINRA filing fee.
  • The public offer price is not known, but the maximum value after the listing is estimated to be $100 million.
  • Underwriters are Morgan Stanley, Citigroup Global and Berenberg
  • Ernst & Young auditors since 2014 and have provided two years of audited results.

Growth Strategies: 

  • Leverage their e-commerce platform to grow the consumer base in each market.
  • Drive consumer adoption and usage through increased consumer education as they continue to strive to deliver a positive online shopping experience
  • Increase the number of sellers and level of seller engagement
  • Develop Jumia Logistics in to better serve consumers and drive economies of scale.
  • Increase the adoption of JumiaPay.  They have agreements, through partners, in Nigeria, Egypt, Ghana, and Ivory Coast to offer JumiaPay, but they don’t offer the full JumiaPay wallet range of services possible, which would require additional eMoney permissions in every country (e.g. Morocco would require €1 million in core capital and €450,000 for Ivory Coast). In Kenya, where they currently operate as a direct lender, they are preparing a new licensing application for JumiaPay.

Risks cited in the Jumia offer:

  • One caution cited is that (US) investors may have difficulty enforcing civil liabilities against us or the members of our management and supervisory board – (as) we are incorporated in Germany and conduct substantially all of our operations in Africa through our subsidiaries.
  • We do not expect to pay any dividends in the foreseeable future.
  • We have broad discretion in the use of the net proceeds from this offering and may not use them effectively.
  • We face competition, which may intensify.  Current competitors include Souq.com in Egypt (affiliated with Amazon), Konga in Nigeria and Takealot, Superbalist and Spree, which are all part of the Naspers group, in South Africa. Also .. some of our competitors currently copy our marketing campaigns, and such competitors may undertake more far-reaching marketing events or adopt more aggressive pricing policies.

€1 = Kshs 115 (Kenya shillings)

Plane Perspectives: Ethiopian Flight ET302 and the Boeing 737 MAX

Air crashes are always surprises, but the news, from the Prime Minister of Ethiopia’s twitter account, that Ethiopian Airlines Flight ET 302 flying from Addis Ababa to Nairobi on the morning of  Sunday, March 10 had gone down, was particularly shocking.

The 157 victims of the crash who held nationalities of 30 countries comprised 149 passengers and 8 crew members. Aside from Ethiopia, Kenya was the most affected nation with 32 of the deceased, while eighteen were from Canada, nine from Ethiopia, eight each from China, US and Italy, and seven each from France and the UK. Some of the victims had dual nationalities and that particular early morning flight was popular with diplomats and delegates who shuttled between meetings in the capitals of Ethiopia and Kenya.

Ethiopian Airlines ET 302 became the second fatal crash of a new Boeing 737 Max in the space of a few months, following that of Lion Air Flight 610 which crashed in Indonesia in October 2018.

Investigations have started into the cause of the crash is  with representatives from Boeing, and US National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) and Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) and General Electric (the engine manufacturer who also lost two employees in the crash who worked in their healthcare division) joining up to assist Ethiopian investigators.

In both crash cases, the planes were new, just a few months old, and took off for relatively short flights during which the pilots lost control of the aircraft.

The Boeing 737 is the most successful commercial aircraft in history with over 10,000 built and over 1,000 are in the air at any given minute. But the new MAX series introduced was different in terms of its design, large engines and navigation systems.  At the time of the accident, the 737 MAX-series has 74 aircraft operating in the USA and 389 worldwide, with the largest fleet users being Southwest Airlines, American Airlines and Air Canada.

Boeing had committed to implement a software upgrade in the coming weeks to the MAX that was directed by the US FAA, but after the crash, Ethiopian Airlines announced the grounding of the rest of their 737 MAX fleet. Other airlines and aviation agencies in China, Indonesia and Cayman Airways, Comair (South Africa), GOL (Indonesia), Mongolia, Royal Air Maroc (Morocco) Singapore and Australia also announced the grounding or banning the use of the aircraft temporarily. The latest has been the United Kingdom.

Boeing’s shares dipped when the shares opened on Monday after the crash.

See also:

  • Here’s a rare picture of the ill-fated plane at Boeing Field, USA, prior to delivery to Ethiopian – via Airliner’s Net.
  • Airlines around the world have grounded 40% of the 737 MAX fleet but not US airlines
  • Long before the crash, some frequent flyer avoided flying on the profit-maximizing MAX aircraft over its squeezed cabins, tiny bathrooms and thin seats e.g. American Airlines has 172 seats in the cabin, including 16 first class seats and 30 extra-legroom seats — compared to the 160 seats that it has on 737-800s with the same cabin size.
  • Perspectives from another impactful plane crash a decade ago – that of KQ 507.

EDIT On Wednesday, March 13, President Donald Trump announced the grounding of all 737 MAX 8 and MAX 9 models. He had informed aviation authorities and Boeing that this was in the best interests of the safety of all passengers as Boeing works on a solution.

He also extended condolences to the friends and families of victims of the Ethiopia and Indonesia crashes.

Investigations into the crash are ongoing.

 

April 4 Ethiopian Airlines statement

April 4 Boeing Statement

FAA disown Ethiopian

Lawyers sniff out victims’ families

Disagreements about possible compensation

And overall liability for the crash.

Hero pilot says the 737 MAX was flawed: As one of the few pilots who have lived to tell about being in the left seat of an airliner when things went horribly wrong, with seconds to react, I know a thing or two about overcoming an unimagined crisis. I am also one of the few who have flown a Boeing 737 MAX Level D full motion simulator, replicating both accident flights multiple times. I know firsthand the challenges the pilots on the doomed accident flights faced, and how wrong it is to blame them for not being able to compensate for such a pernicious and deadly design

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